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Registration is Open for the 2021 Stage Machine Design Competition

Stage Directions • Industry News • October 15, 2020

The annual Stage Machine Design Competition that’s now part of the newly created Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering and held at Purdue University, provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to flex their engineering design muscles creating prototype machines to address live entertainment challenges. This year’s design challenge has just been announced, and registration is now open. The Registration deadline is December 18, 2020.

Combining Engineering, Design, and Live Entertainment
The Stage Machine Design Competition (SMDC) brings together theatre technology students from colleges and universities to share the excitement of designing and building the machines that bring stage effects to life. The competition celebrates the design journey that leads from inception to prototype and seeks to inspire the next generation of mechanical designers and engineers who will invent new experiences for live entertainment.

2020’s coronavirus pandemic meant the Dumbwaiter Challenge was cancelled. 2019 saw over 25 students from five universities design the best Flower Petal Drop Effect. Here’s information about the design challenge for the 2021 competition.

2021 Challenge Description: Pop Up Dart Trap Effect
Your team has been hired to develop some moving elements for a new, immersive escape room experience opening in your hometown. One of the escape room themes has participants following the footsteps of Wisconsin Johnson, famed archeologist-explorer, through an ancient hidden temple avoiding the various traps set up to prevent looters from pillaging the temple.

Within the narrative of the escape room, Wisconsin Johnson (and other explorers) must be careful when walking through a particular passage of the temple; one misstep will cause the statuary heads along the walls of the passage to rapidly rise upwards off the floor (as if the statues suddenly grow taller), propel a poison dart from their mouths, and then slowly descend back to the floor.

For this challenge, you will design the mechanism behind this Pop-Up Dart Trap Effect. This challenge has two elements: a mechanism to lift the “head,” and a mechanism to propel the “dart.” Additionally, you must design the method for triggering the dart to launch once the “head” has reached its maximum height. Here’s further information on the 2021 Challenge. Here are the rules for the SMDC.

2021 Sponsors
Creative Conners, Inc.; Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc.; piVot2; Reed Rigging, Inc.; United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT); USITT Midwest Regional Section; and McLaren Engineering Group

Further information and to register for the 2021 Stage Machine Design Competition:


About The Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering
Purdue University is a recognized leader in education at the nexus of live entertainment and engineering. The Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering builds on that reputation, serving as a hub for best practices, trends, and developments in this interdisciplinary approach that connects engineering and the arts. The Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering connects industry leaders with scholars and practitioners, provides space for development and exploration, and inspires pedagogical innovation at the nexus of engineering and live entertainment.


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